The Life of Captain James Cook
IV — Newfoundland
Charts, Large and small, harbour plans, ‘views’, descriptions, sailing directions—all these things represent experience, professional education, a mastery of a particular sort. We recur inevitably to Holland's account of the good advice that Simcoe had given in the Halifax winter: ‘he told Capt. Cook that as he had mentioned to several of his friends in power, the necessity of having surveys of these parts and astronomical observations made as soon as peace was restored, he would recommend him to make himself competent to the business….’ Cook had made himself competent to the business, as if driven by a sober but compulsive ambition. What now? He must sometimes, as a thoughtful man, have considered the past seven and a half years, since he offered himself to the navy at Wapping: he could hardly have been dissatisfied with his advancement since then. He was now thirty-four; he had been fortunate in some of his friends—Walker, Simcoe, Holland—but they were not men who could send him rocketing to eminence, and eminence was a thing he could scarcely have dreamed of. He had worked hard, as it was natural for him to work hard. If he wished to meditate on experience, he could meditate not merely on his introduction to the plane-table and trigonometry and astronomy, but on the North Sea and the Atlantic; on enough battle to satisfy the ordinary man without particular taste for fire-eating; on the behaviour of men crowded by hundreds into ships and the mentality of sailors in general; on naval discipline and its accepted cruelty of hanging and flogging; on the appalling state of naval health. We know, from his subsequent words and actions, that there were things in his experience that revolted him. We would not know it from anything recorded as said or done by him up to this time, or for some time after. He assimilated his experience. He added to it, by getting married.
1 Why George Downing of Little Wakering? It is an odd little puzzle. The vicar of St Margaret's, Barking, was Christopher Musgrave, though it appears from the Parish Register, 1754–67, that his curate, R. Carter, carried out most of the marriages.
1 Admiralty, Hydrographic Dept., 9/73; A7353/77.
1 We can certainly rely on this information given by Kippis, 8, ‘From a paper of Admiral Graves's, communicated by the Rev. Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Carlisle’. The paper is unfortunately lost. Graves's brother refers to it in a letter among the Douglas papers, B.M., Egerton Ms 2180.
On economic matters his duty was to correspond with the Board of Trade. ‘Mr Graves having represented to us’, wrote that body, ‘that the imperfect Returns hitherto made by the Governors of Newfoundland have been chiefly owing to their want of a Secretary, Surveyor, or other Person, capable of collecting Information, keeping regular accounts and making Draughts of Coasts and Harbours, for which services there has never been any allowances, and that such assistance is now become still more necessary to the Governor of Newfoundland, by the enlargement of his Government, and his instructions to report as accurately as he can the conditions, fisherys, and other material particulars of a country at present little known. We beg leave to humbly submit to your Majesty, whether it may not be expedient that such an allowance should be made.’2 It does not seem that this plea to make it financially possible for Graves to cope with the paper work consequent on his Royal Instructions had great success, but at least the pressing need for ‘Draughts of Coasts and Harbours’ was recognised. It is clear that Cook's candidature was pressed on the Admiralty, and that agreement was reached.
There were office delays, of course. Graves's letters to Philip Stephens, who had succeeded Clevland as Admiralty secretary, are not without signs of exasperation. He first writes, if the records are complete, as if all were settled, on 5 April:
I have this moment seen Mr Cook and acquainted him he was to get himself ready to depart the moment the board was pleased to order him, and that he was to have 10 shils a day while employed on this service—He has been to enquire for a draughtsman at the Tower, but as this is a Holiday
1 Graves to Clevland, 2 January 1763, Adm 1/1836.page 65 he found hardly any one there—There are some who draw there at 1s 6d a day, and others who have two shillings a day—one of which last establishment he wants to have and is assured that the Board will continue any such Person who chuses to go on their establishment upon an application from your Office made for them. It is from this classset they allways send draughtsmen with Engineers or Commanding Officers who go abroad—The additional Pay they require from your office Mr Cook will acquaint you of tomorrow as soon as he can see them & propose their going. If he does not find their conditions to come wth in their own office establishment, I have desired him to advertise for a draughtsman—acquaint you by letter with the terms he can bring them to, and wait your commands, as to the hireing any such, and as to the time of his setting out for the Ship.
2 ‘Representation’ of 29 March 1763, quoted by Kitson, 63–4, from the Shelburne Mss.
There shou'd be a Theodilite and drawings instrumts which will cost about 12 or 15 £ and is a thing the ordnance always allow their People—The officers of the Yard should be orderd to supply me with two or three spare Azimith compasses & a number of Pendants of any colour to put as signals on different Points for takeing the Angles as the Survey goes on—1
Cook had been to the Tower because that was the headquarters of the Ordnance Office with its staff of technically-trained draughtsmen, one of which he as much as an ‘engineer’ would need for assistance. A week went by, and the sign of exasperation appears, in a note headed with some ambiguity ‘Tuesday noon 1763’.
Captain Graves Compliments wait upon Mr Stephens and beg to know what final answer he shall give to Mr Cook late master of the Northumberland who is very willing to go out to Survey the Harbour & Coasts of Labrador and the draughtsman he was to get from the Tower—as they both wait to know their Lordships resolution and the footing they are to be upon….2
1 Graves to Stephens, 5 April 1763, Adm 1/1836.
2 Adm 1/1836. I date this note conjecturally as 12 April. The Tuesdays in that month fall on the 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th. It can hardly belong to the 5th, the date of Graves's earlier letter, on which it seems logically to follow, with its reference to getting a draughtsman from the Tower. On the other hand, Graves's letter of 18 April implies that all dubieties were now settled. The dates of Stephens's letter to Cook about instruments, 18 April, and Graves's to Stephens of 15 April, seem to show that Graves was not informed punctually of all the developments.
Graves's mind must somehow have been relieved of its immediate worry—which may indeed have fallen on him partly because of his enforced absence from London to deal with some unrest in the Antelope at Spithead. On 18 April he reminded Stephens that it had been decided to give him orders to purchase two small vessels of about sixty tons in Newfoundland—‘The one to send with Mr Cook upon the Survey of the Coasts and Harbours’, the other for anti-smuggling or police duty—as well as to build a new hospital at St John's. The orders had not come. ‘A change at the Board takeing place and my being order'd down to my ship on account of a mutiny amongst the Crew—the affair rested where it was and I am afraid is forgotten…. I beg you will please to remind their Lordships of these things, that I may go out with proper orders relating to it. The sending out Draughtsmen to Survey the Harbours, seems to Point out the necessity of their having a Small Vessell fit to use on that business.’3 He enclosed a list of articles given him by Cook ‘as necessary in the business of Surveying’, which Cook ‘apprehends may be supplied from the King's yard by order’: to wit,
|‘Small Flags which may be made from new Buntin or out of Old colours||Twelve|
|Knight's Azimuth Compas||One|
|Knight's Steering Compas||One|
|Deep Sea Leads||Two|
|Tallow||lbs Twenty five|
|Common deal Tables to Draw upon||Two|
1 Adm 1/1836.
2 Stephens to Cook, 13 April 1763, Adm 2/722.
3 Graves to Stephens, 18 April 1763, Adm 1/1836.
‘If the Navy Board have not orders to supply these extra stores, no reason I can offer will have any weight.' Obviously Captain Graves was becoming a trifle weary of ‘forms of office’. The Navy Board was ordered to supply the articles from the yard at Plymouth.1 And the day after Graves wrote his letter from Spithead the Lords at last despatched their formal order.
Whereas we have thought fit to appoint Mr James Cook, a Person well skilled in making Surveys, and Mr William Test belonging to the Drawing Room in the Office of Ordnance, to go to Newfoundland in His Majesty's Ship under your Command in order to be employed in making surveys of the Coast & Harbours of that Island, and in making Drafts and Charts thereof; for which the former will be allowed Ten shillings a day and the latter six shillings in addition to what he receives from the Board of Ordnance: You are hereby required and directed to receive the said two Persons on board, and bear them on a Supernumary [sic] List for Victuals only until your return to England; and to employ them during your stay at Newfoundland as you shall see fit on the Service abovementioned.2
On the same day Mr James Cook, Town, and Mr William Test, Tower, were ordered to repair immediately on board the Antelope and follow the orders of Captain Graves.3 Ten shillings a day, one may call to mind, was the wage of a captain of a fourth rate—the wage of Palliser in the Eagle.
1 Endorsement on the letter last cited; and Admiralty to Navy Board, as April 1763, National Maritime Museum, Adm/A/2546.
2 Admiralty to Graves, 19 April 1763, Adm 2/90. Graves wrote from Spithead on the 21st. ‘By last nights Post I receiv'd' the order (Adm 1/1836); which testifies to fairly rapid communication.
3 Stephens to Cook/Test, 19 April 1763, Adm 2/90.
4 Adm 36/4887.
5 Admiralty to Navy Board, 26 April 1763, Nmm, Adm/A/2546.
6 Graves to Stephens, 29 April 1763, Adm 1/1836.
7 Admiralty to Graves, 3 May 1763, Adm 1/90.
1 Graves to Stephens, from Plymouth Sound, 8 May 1763, Adm 1/1836.
2 Admiralty to Graves, 27 May 1763, Adm 2/90; Admiralty to ‘Mr Smart, at Lambeth’, 27 May, Adm 2/722. Test made his career at home. Almost forty years later he became Chief Draughtsman at the Tower, in 1801, and retired in 1815 after 56 years in the Ordnance service.—R. A. Skelton, James Cook Surveyor of Newfoundland (San Francisco, 1965), 11, n. Further references to this work are simply to ‘Skelton’.
1 ‘The errors and omissions inherent in a survey of this sort arose from the difficulty of logging the ship's track and fixing her position with sufficient accuracy, from inability to determine the exact position of soundings and submarine features, and from the masking of some land features by others from the eyes of an observer close inshore.’—Skelton, 11.
2 ‘A Chart of the Sea coast, Bays, and Harbours, in Newfoundland between Green Island and Point Ferrolle. Surveyed … by James Cook. Coppy'd from the original survey taken in ye year 1764.'—H.D. 342. R. A. Skelton, in ‘Captain James Cook as a Hydrographer’, Mariner's Mirror, Vol. 40 (1954), 92–119, reproduces a detail of this, pl. 1(a).
3 Nmm, Graves Mss, Grv/106, Sect. 9.
1 Tweed's muster book, Adm 36/6901, 13 June 1763. They remained on the strength till the July-August muster.
2 Adm 1/1704, n.d.
3 Instructions to Graves, 2 May 1763, Adm 2/90.
4 Graves to Stephens, 20 October 1763, Nmm, Grv/106. The isthmus reasserted itself in 1781, but not on the charts, and there were many shipwrecks in consequence.
Cook got to work at once, ‘with all possible application’, on St Pierre, while Douglas held off the governor, ‘who was (you may believe with some difficulty) persuaded to remain on board with his troops, untill the fourth day of July when (the survey of St Peter's being compleated) that Island was deliver'd to him in form: and our Surveyor began with the other; the weather still continuing foggy and unfavorable.’1 In the meantime M. d'Anjac had despatched a very indignant letter to Graves at Placentia, but was somehow calmed down. We can see a little of the comings and goings in Douglas's log: 3 July, ‘Pm sent our Cutter under ye Command of a Midshipman to attend Mr Cook whilst he survey'd the Islands of Miquelon & Langley'; 12 July, ‘Am sent ye Longboat with 4 Days provisions for ye Men wth Mr Cook on ye Island of Langley’; 13 July, ‘Pm ye Longbt return'd from Langley not finding Mr Cook there, he being gone to Miquelon’;2 25 July, ‘Arriv'd here ye Shallop Tender & Cutter wth Mr Cook he having Finish'd ye Survey of that part of this Island Called Dunn.’ 3 A few days more and Cook had finished the whole island, which was handed over to the impatient French on 31 July. He had worked on a large scale. ‘A Plan of the Islands of St Peter's, Langly, and Miquelong, survey'd by order of H.E. Thos. Graves, Esq., Governor of Newfoundland, by James Cook', is laid down at three and a half inches to the mile, and measures seven feet eight inches by two feet five inches.4 It could be reduced at need. Douglas, on his part, had done his very best for Cook. ‘I procured him all the time I could,’ he wrote later to the Admiralty secretary, ‘by staying at St Peter's under various pretences, untill towards the 17th, and then went to the Road of Miquelon—where we made shift to keep the Commandant in some sort of temper, untill the beginning of August; when, thro’ the unwearied assiduity of Mr Cooke, the survey of that Island too, was compleated.' The dutiful captain had had to expend something more than tactful words, on which he enlarges modestly.
I flatter myself Sir, that my Lords Comissioners will easily believe, that so delicate an affair, as keeping the French Governor so long on board; out of the exercise of his authority, the surveying of his Islands untill the
1 Douglas to Stephens, 3 May 1764, Adm 1/1704.
2 These dates must again be interpreted according to ship time—i.e. 3 July PM is the afternoon of 2 July civil time; 12 July Am is the morning of 12 July civil time.
3 Captain's Logs, Tweed, Adm 51/1016. ‘Dunn’ appears to be what Cook called on his chart Dunne Harbour, represented now by Grand Barachois—‘a basin with a narrow entrance on its south-eastern side, only practicable for boats’ (Newfoundland Pilot, I (8th ed., 1951), 185) — which almost entirely occupies the northern part of the tongue of land between the two Miquelons, the Chaussee de Miquelon or Isthme de Langlade.page 73 beginning of August, due to France since the 10th of June; and to have thereby occasion'd no disturbance, must have caused an expensive intercourse on my side [and he thinks the Lords might be induced to] grant me some consideration for the extraordinary expences I was put to; without having incurred which the Islands in question wou'd have remained unsurvey'd.1
4 B.M. Add. Ms 17963.
The Lords were not unsympathetic, and did not think the suggested £50 was too much to grant.
1 Douglas to Stephens, London, 3 May 1764, and minute thereon, Adm 1/1704.
2 The Navy Board made difficulties over paying for it. On 2 December 1763 it asked the Admiralty whether it should pay the bill.—NMM, Adm/B/173. Then it said that under its rules it could not pay; for six months later the Admiralty ordered it to do so—Nmm, Adm/A/2561.
3 Graves to Stephens (draft) Antelope, St John's, 20 October 1763; Nmm, Grv/106.
4 The dating is not quite easy. Graves to Stephens, 20 October, says that the Pearl had sailed for England, ‘there being no occasion to detain her here and carrys some invalids sent hither from Louisbourg for a passage home.’—Nmm, Grv/106. On 30 October ‘by the Tweed’ he says, ‘By the Pearl C. Saxton who sailed from hence the 26th [October?] I acquainted their Lordships with my proceeding[s] till that time. The Schooner Grenvile has since return'd from the Northward wt our seeing the Terpsichore.' He had sent her with an answer to Captain Ruthven's many queries ‘some days since’.—Grv/106.
The governor reported to the Admiralty secretary on 30 October, beginning with the movements of ships. He proceeds:
The Tweed sails with these dispatches and I hope to leave the country about the same time. As Mr Cook whose Pains and attention are beyond my description, can go no farther in surveying this year I send him home in the Tweed in preferance to keeping him on board [the Antelope], that he may have the more time to finish the difft surveys allready taken of it to be layn before their Lordships—and to copy the different sketches of ye Coasts and Harbours, taken by ye ships on the several stations by which their Lordships will perceive how extreamly erroneous ye present draughts are, & how dangerous to ships that sail by them—and how generally beneficial to Navigation the work now in hand will be when finished indeed I have no doubt in a Year or two more of seeing a perfect good chart of Newfoundland and an exact survey of most of ye good harbours in which there is not perhaps a part of the World that more abounds.
The inclosed Papers are the remarks made by the Captains of the Lark, Tweed and Pearl. Mr Cook will lay before their Lordsh: ye original Survey of St Peters Miquelon & Langley as allso Quirpon & Noddy harbours, Chateaux or York harbour & Croque, these though not so highly finished as a Copy may be, yet I am purswaded thier Lordships will think ye properest to be deposited in thier Office.2
1 Hydrographic Dept., B. 188.
2 Nmm, Grv/106. The instructions to captains to carry on the survey were apparently meant to be taken seriously. Douglas to Stephens from the Tweed, Spithead, 8 December 1763, illustrates this: ‘Be pleased to lay before my Lords Commissioners, the herewith-inclosed Sketch of the Magdalen Islands in the Gulph of St Laurence; where the Sea-Cow fishery is carried on. And be moreover pleased to acquaint their Lordships, that agreeable to the commands of the Right Honourable Board of last April, between the beginning of September and the middle of October I took an incompleat one, of the whole Coast of Newfoundland, within the limits of the station prescribed me by their Lordships; viz: between the Capes Race and Ray. Which Sketch is (pursuant to the desire of the Captain Graves of the Antelope) now in the hands of Mr James Cooke; who was last Summer employ'd to survey the Islands of St Peter and Miquelon: which Survey we were not able to compleat before the beginning of August. One of the reasons of the incompleatness of the Draught last mention'd.'—Adm 1/1704. And see Palliser's letter, p. 84 below.
1 To be precise, on 13 October 1763, at Shadwell. This is one of the bits of information Kippis (517) got from Mrs Cook.
2 I owe most of the details in the foregoing passage to Mr A. W. Smith, ‘Captain James Cook, Londoner’, in East London Papers, vol. 11, No. 2 (1968), 94–7. The house stood until 1959. The Assembly Row address remained until 1863, when the name was abolished and the house became 88 Mile End Road. In 1880 the ground floor was converted to a shop, projecting on to the small front garden (most of the other houses in the row were served likewise). No. 88 was in this century successively an emporium for women's apparel and a kosher butchery. An L.C.C. commemorative plaque was affixed to it in 1907, which did not prevent its later demolition. The rest of the row was spared, in shabby disrepair.
3 Admiralty to Navy Board, 4 January 1764, Nmm, Adm/A/2555.
4 A letter from the Admiralty to the Navy Board, 23 April 1764, refers to his death, and to Smart's (and his brother's) employment, in providing for Smart's pay. A certificate from Cook on the matter was enclosed.—Nmm, Adm/A/2558.
I learnt this day at the Admiralty of your arrival of which I give you joy, and have to acquaint you, that soon after my arrival, I gave my surveys into the board which was approved of, and was then order'd to draw a fair copie of St Peters and Miquelong to be laid before the King, these and the different Captains Sketches is finished and given in to the board. Those that you intend for the Board of Trade are ready. I had not the honour to see Mr Grenvill when I gave in the Plan, but am convinced it was well received, as he made me an offer soon after (by Mr Whatley Secretary to the Treasury) to go as one of the Surveyors to the Natral Islands, which I was obliged to decline, your favourable recommendation of me to this Gentleman, likewise, to the Admiralty, together with many other signal favours I have received during the short time I have had the honour to be under your command shall ever be had in the most gratfull remembrance and tho' Captain Pallisser, who is appointed to the command in Newfoundland is a Gentleman I have been long acquainted with yet I cannot help being sorry that you do not enjoy that officer longer.
It is more than probable the Survey of the Island will go on untill compleatly finished, this usefull and necessary thing the World must be obliged to you for.
I shall do my self the honour to wait upon you as soon as you arrive in town and acquaint you with what has pass'd between Lord Egmont and me in regard to the North part of the Island. I am with great respect
your most Obt and Very Hble Sert
The ‘Grenvill’ here referred to must certainly have been George Grenville, the First Lord of the Treasury; Egmont was First Lord of the Admiralty, and presumably, he was interested in French infringements of the fishery, agreement, on which Graves had already had something to say. Masters in the navy did not ordinarily converse with First Lords of any sort.
1 Cook to Graves, 15 March 1764, Nmm, Grv/106. The ‘fair copie … laid before the King’ is now in the British Museum map collection, K. Top, cxix. 111. The ‘Natral Islands’ were presumably the Neutral Islands in the West Indies—St Vincent, Dominica, Tobago and St Lucia (the last an island of superb harbours). They were declared neutral by France and England—i.e. not to be colonised by either power—in 1730 and 1748; but the first three were ceded to England at the Peace of Paris in 1763. The French then clung to St Lucia, which, however, became British in the settlement of 1815.
At the Book and Map seller at the large Gateway in Cheap-side Jn° Senex's Map Pub. in 1710 names Cape Ray and calls Pt Rich Cape Pointu—this Map was drawen from the observations communicated to the Roy 1 Society at London and the Academy at Paris—
Mitchel's Map—Pub 1755—Cape or Point Rich, which is left out of the late French Maps as if there was no such place seemingly because it is the boundries of their prevelige of fishing which extend from hence Northward round to C. Bonavista.
The Universal Traveller or Compleat account of Voyages by Pat. Barclay—1734-54, speaking of Newfoundland, I do not find he once mentions C. Ray or Pt Rich, but says their Journals was so confounded with names common to both sides of the Island that it was a difficult matter to tell which side there where [i.e. they were] upon, in the Gulf or on the Ne side—
At Mr Vanbushels Gardener at Lambeth
In Ogilbys America Pub in 1671 is a Map without Date, that mentions Cape Ray only—this Historian doth not speak of Cape Ray but in one place, and there he must mean Cape Race—
I have seen no maps to day, but such as we see yesterday, except the above; neither have I met with any Historys or Voyages (and I have looked into several) that makes any mention of what we want—
Palliser was triumphant in rebutting the claim of the French ambassador that Cape Ray and not Point Riche was the really intended southern limit on the west coast of French operations. The enquiries which Cook made of old Newfoundland hands about settlement on the east coast seem less relevant.2
1 ‘To Hugh Pallisser Esqr’,Adm 1/2300. Palliser must have sent the communication on to the Admiralty. I can trace no Senex map as early as 1710, or any before The Coast of Newfoundland from Placentia to Cape Bonavista, No. 50 in his Atlas maritimus &commercialis, 1728. The map of Captain John Mitchell, F.R.S. was his Map of the British and French Dominions in North America, 1755, used for the peace treaty of 1783. Patrick Barclay, The Universal Traveller: or, a Complete account of the most remarkable voyages and travels … to the present time, a folio of 795 pp., has the B.M. date 1735. John Ogilby,America, being the Latest and Most Accurate Description of the New World … London, 1671, another folio. I presume that Mr Vanbushel may have been an acquaintance of Cook's, whom he knew to possess a copy of Ogilby.
2 Hist. Rec. N.S.W., I, Part 1, 300–1, prints a letter from George Davis to Cook, Poole, 14 March 1764, on the subject. A note on one of Cook's maps (‘A Sketch of the Island of Newfoundland. Done from the last Observations. By James Cook 1763’; Admiralty Library, America, Vol. I, No. 21) seems to bear on this same investigation. It concerns the years of settlement at various places ‘All of which places the English have continued to fish at, since first settled’.
1 Palliser to Stephens, 4 April 1764, Adm 2/2300.
1 Admiralty to Navy Board, 13 April 1764, Nmm, Adm/A/2558. Stephens to Palliser, 13 April, in answer to his of 4 April; agreeing with all his suggestions, and saying, ‘Their Lordships have commended Mr Cook to the Navy Board to be appointed Master of the said Vessel & when you acquaint me with the name of the Mate their Lordships will order the Navy Board to pay him an additional Allowance of three Shillings a day Assistant Surveyor.’—Adm 2/704. Cook to Stephens, 21 April (on conduct money, carriage of seamen's chests, and bedding), Atl, Holograph Letters; Admiralty to Navy Board, 23 April (conduct money, etc.); 24 April (manning of the Grenville—two men from Pearl, Tweed, Lark, Zephyr, Spy); 27 April (Navy Board to repay Cook for repair of surveying instruments and provisions of others).—ADM/A/2558. Stephens to Cook, 23 April (on conduct money, etc.), Adm 2/724, Atl Hol. Lett.; to captains Spy, Pearl, Tweed, Zephyr, 24 April (on loan of men), Adm 2/90; to Captain Thompson, Lark, 24 April (to take out Cook and his men and lend him two men), Adm 2/91; to Palliser, 30 April (on loan of men), Adm 2/724; to Palliser, 2 May (on directions to Cook), printed in H. Carrington, Life of Captain Cook, 38. There are a few other formal letters on this season's work in Atl, Holograph Letters, item 3 in which seems to be Grenville letter book, not in Cook's hand.
2 Navy Board warrant, 18 April 1764, Atl, Hol. Lett.
3 Palliser to Cook, 29 April 1764, Atl, Hol. Lett.
4 Cook's Grenville log and journal, 14 June 1764–15 November 1767, in seven parts, make up Adm 52/1263, parts 1, 2, and 6 the log, parts 3, 5, and 7 the journal: there is not very much difference between them, and neither log nor journal is in Cook's hand, though each part is signed by him. The title-pages of parts 3 and 5 are rather fancy productions, and in part 5 ‘Schooner’ becomes ‘Brigg’. Some of the journal, though not by any means all of it, seems to be kept in civil time; the log is now and again a little fuller. Most of the quotations in the present account are from the journal, with occasional recourse to the log, but it does not seem necessary to give constant references beyond the dates in the text.
2pm Came on board the Cutter with the Master who unfortunately had a Large Powder Horn blown up & Burst in his hand which shatter'd it in a Terrible manner and one of the people that stood hard by suffered greatly by the same accident and having no Surgeon on board Bore away for Noddy Harbour where a French fishing ship Lay, at 8 sent the Boat in for the French surgeon at 10 the Boat returned with the Surgeon, at 11 Anchord in Noddy Harbour in 6 fathom water.
1 Palliser to Cook, 19 June 1764, Atl, Hol. Lett.
4. ‘Plan of the Harbour of Great and Little St Laurence’
By Cook. Inset in a chart of the south coast of Newfoundland, 1765
5. Sir Hugh Palliser, by George Dance
1 Cook to Stephens, 13 December 1764, Atl, leaf from Grenville letter-book stuck in Hick's Endeavour log. Stephens to Cook, 18 December 1764, Adm 2/725; Dixson Library, Ms, Q140, 2.
The masts sails and rigging of His Majesty's Schooner the Grenville being all or the most part of them Condemned by Survey, Permit me to set forth the utility of having her rigg'd into a Brigg, as I presume it may now be Done without much additional expence to the Crown, for Schooners are the worst of vessels to go upon any Discovery, for in meeting with any unexpected Danger their staying cannot be Depended upon, and for want of sail to Lay a Back they run themselves ashore before they wear; this I experienced in the Grenville schooner Last summer in the Straights of Belle Islse, when I see the Condition her Bottom is in it supprizeth me that she ever came off. A Brigg hath all these advantages over a schooner besides many more I could name, was I not applying to Gentlemen better acquainted with those things than my self. I only mean to give somereasons for my request, and pray you will be pleas'd to take these into your Consideration, and if they appear reasonable to order her to be rigg'd into a Brigg, as I Cannot help thinking but that it will enable me to Carry on the Survey with greater Dispatch, and Less Danger of Loosing the Vessel than she is at present.1
In this proposal the Gentlemen of the Navy Board—‘Your Affectionate Friends’, as they habitually subscribed themselves—in their turn acquiesced.
1 Cook to Navy Board [22 January 1765], Dixson Library, Ms, Q 140, 6. The letter, undated, appears among a number in the Dixson Library apparently extracted from the Grenville's letter-book; the date is ascertainable from the Navy Board's reply, 6 February 1765 (from the same source), which begins, ‘In return to your Letter of 22nd past,’. The remark on worms is in another undated letter, Atl, in the stray letter-book leaf referred to in the previous note.
2 Palliser to Stephens, 6 March 1765, Adm 1/2300; Stephens to Cook, 5 April, Adm 2/725.
We have two letters of this winter from Palliser to the Admiralty secretary, bearing on the survey. The first reminds us that, while Cook was the full-time surveyor on the Newfoundland station, the captains also employed there were not exempt from the duties of observing and reporting and drawing what charts they could, and that even the commodore and governor found it wise to explain what might look remiss.
Mr Cook the Surveyor having been Employ'd under my Directions upon the Coasts where I have been Employ'd in His Majesty's Ship Guernsey, I beg leave to refer the Board to his Drafts and Remarks, & as the several Services I have had under my care have not allow'd me time to make such Surveys and Remarks myself, I desire you will be Pleas'd to move their Lordships to Signifie to the Navy Board that they have no Objection to their Paying my Wages.1
The second comes closer to the interests of the Surveyor himself.
Sir/Mr Cook Apointed by the Right Honble my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to Survey the Sea Coast of Newfoundland, under my Direction, having finish'd his Chart of that part of the South Coast of Newfoundland Adjacent to the Islands of St Pierre and Miquelon Including the said Islands; upon a large Scale of one Inch to a Mile, you will herewith receive the said Chart, which be pleas'd to lay before the Right Honble my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.
He having also the last Year deliver'd in to the Board his Survey of the North part of Newfoundland upon the same Scale, and having now prepar'd a Chart of that part with the Oposite part of the Coast of Labradore, including the Island and Straights of Bell Isle, likewise another of the abovemention'd Survey of part of the South Coast of Newfoundland, both upon a proper Scale to be usefull to the Trade and Navigation of His Majesty's Subjects, as a Publication thereof, I am of Opinion will be a great Encouragement to new Advanturers on the Fishery's upon these Coasts; be pleas'd to move their Lordships to permit Mr Cook to Publish the same.2
This letter Mr Stephens minuted on 17 February. ‘Their Lordps are pleased to comply with his reqt by permitting Mr Cook to publish them.’
1 Palliser to Stephens, 14 December 1765, Adm 1/2300.
2 Palliser to Stephens, 3 February 1766, Adm 1/470. Kitson, 79–80, first printed this letter, rather inaccurately, and made the date 1768.
It may seem odd that the Admiralty, having appointed Cook specifically, in the national interest, to improve the general knowledge of the coasts of Newfoundland, and bearing the expenses of an annual survey, should be content to stop there, to accept the careful charts he brought back and put them in a cupboard and do no more. They could be copied, by hand, no doubt, for any particular naval need; but, a large number of seafaring men might have said, how absurd! And if that was to be the fate of the work which every naval captain and master was directed in set and stringent words to carry out, could captains and masters be blamed for sometimes taking instructions lightly? The admiralty had no hydrographic department—did not have one until 1795—and no hydrographer. Britain, for a competitive sea power, lagged ridiculously behind France, where the Depô;t des Cartes et Plans de la Marine dated from 1720, and where a coruscation of geographers and cartographers were at work. The Admiralty engraved nothing and published nothing; the map and chart trade was a matter for private commerical enterprise, and however, conscientious some of those engaged in it might be, the general tendency was not towards scientific exactitude, the old chart appeared and re-appeared for generations, and stationers saw no need to blush. Cook had words of his own, later, with which to record his opinion of this British habit. At least the Admiralty put no obstacle in the way of a public servant like himself who wished to try a better article on the market; he was welcome to take the risk of having his own chart, made at the public expense, engraved and published at his own expense. Fortunately he was able to bear the cost: his surveyor's allowance added to his pay as master gave him a margin above the ordinary needs of subsistence. Very soon, therefore, after receiving Admiralty consent Cook must have gone to J. Larken, a highly accomplished engraver, with his manuscript charts—perhaps at the suggestion of Mount and Page, who had published his chart of Gaspé. He may have had time to oversee the engraving himself if Larken worked hard, but that would have meant the production of two elaborate plates in two months, which is most unlikely. Both were published in 1766. The first was ‘A Chart of the Straights of Bellisle with part of the coast of Newfoundland and Labradore from actual surveys Taken by Order of Commodore Pallisser Governor of Newfoundland, Labradore, &ca by James Cook Surveyor 1766.’ That is, it was the result of the latter part of Cook's work in 1763 and the Grenville survey of 1764. The second, produced in two sheets, was ‘A Chart, of Part of the South Coast, of Newfoundland, including the Islands St Peters and Miquelon, from page 86 an actual survey Taken by order of Commodore Pallisser … by James Cook, Surveyor … 1766.’1 This was a combination of the first part of his work in 1763 and what he had just finished in 1765. Both these charts were on a scale of one inch to one league. Both were accompanied by quarto pamphlets of sailing directions, also by Cook and published at his expense. The first chart was sold by Mount and Page; the second by them, and also by Thomas Jefferys of the St Lawrence chart and Andrew Dury. The two together must be regarded as very distinguished achievement. Yet they did not drive from the market the Newfoundland delineation of 1677, first published in 1689 in The English Pilot The Fourth Book, the property of Messrs Mount and Page, which remained steadfastly uninfluenced by Cook, to mislead sailors who patronised that firm rather than Jefferys' until its last edition of 1794.
1 They are fully described in Skelton, 24–5, and Skelton and Tooley, Marine Surveys, 14–16.
2 Stephens to Cook, 17 March 1766, Adm 2/726.
3 Admiralty to Navy Board, 12 February 1767, directing that the sum of £16 16s, which Cook had expended on this service, be repaid to him.—ADM/A/2592.
1 The quotation is from the second and third pages of the Preface to the fairly formidable Leadbetter of 1728. He recommends knowledge also of the ‘Immersions and Emersions of Jupiter's Satellites, and the Times of the Transits of the Moon by the Fixed Stars and Planets’—quite useless to preach to mariners.
Back from the islands to the main, to ‘Connure’ or Connoire Bay (the engraved chart straightens out the odd phonetic spellings of the log), and then ‘Tweed's Harbour’, 16–28 August: a name we must probably carry back to Captain Douglas's survey in the Tweed in 1763, and see as applying to Cinq Cerf Bay. Then a maze of small harbours and islets off shore which brought the vessel to Port aux Basques, not far short of Cape Ray, for the fortnight 10–23 September, during which her sails and rigging were overhauled, and she was scrubbed and ‘boot-topped’.1 Here the survey was extraordinarily detailed. Around Cape Ray a week was spent in Codroy Road, just south of Cape Anguille. Not merely was the coast between the two capes delineated, but the rivers, for some distance inland. Then Cook turned back on his tracks, to La Poile Bay, on the south coast; he moved about the bay in rain, gales and hard squalls, with much snow and frost, wooding and watering as well as surveying, until 20 October, when he sailed for St John's. He reached it on the 27th. Palliser was there, in the Guernsey, with three other vessels of his squadron, including the 32-gun frigate Niger, Captain Sir Thomas Adams. On board the Niger, lately returned from her patrol of the Strait of Belle Isle, was Joseph Banks, a botanical young gentleman who had been taking a voyage of scientific curiosity. Cook was to see a good deal of him before the decade was out, but it is unlikely that he met him this day, and on the next the Niger sailed for Lisbon and England. Had Cook arrived two days earlier they might well have met at the ball with which the governor on 25 October celebrated the anniversary of the Coronation of George III; although (Banks tells us) it was ladies, not gentlemen, that Palliser was short of.2 Cook himself sailed on 4 November, and with almost continual westerlies was across the Atlantic and up Channel off Beachy Head nineteen days later: on 30 November he was at Deptford, having brought his ship there from Woolwich, by allowance of the Lords, ‘for greater safety.’3
1 Boot-topping a ship meant cleaning the upper part of her bottom, and ‘paying’ or covering it with a mixture of tallow, sulphur, and perhaps other ingredients to discourage marine growth.
3 Stephens to Cook, 27 November 1766, Adm 2/726.
An Observation of An Eclipse of the Sun at the Island of New-found-land. Aug. 5–1766 by Mr James Cook, with the Longitudes of the Place of Observation deduced from it, communicated by J. Bevis M.D. F.R.S.
Mr Cook, a good mathematician, and very expert in his Business, having been appointed by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to Survey the Sea coasts of New-found-land, Labradore &c., took with him a very good apparatus of Instruments, and among them a brass Telescopic Quadrant made by Mr John Bird.
Being Aug. 5th 1766 at one of the Burgeo Islands near Cape Ray, Latd. 47de;36′19″, the South-west extremity of New-found-land, and having carefully rectified his Quadrant, he waited for the Eclipse of the Sun; just a minute after the beginning of which he observed the Zenith Distance of the Suns upper Limb 31°57′00″, and allowing for Refraction and his Semidiameter, the true Zenith Distance of the Sun's Centre 32°13′30″, from whence he concluded the Eclipse to have begun at 0h4′48″ Apparent Time, and by a like process to have ended at 3h45′26″ App.T.
Note, there were three several observers, with good Telescopes, who all agreed as to the moments of beginning and ending.
1 Described by Skelton, 25; Skelton and Tootey, 16–17.
2 It was printed in the Philosophical Transactions for that year, LVII, 215–6.
|5h23′59″||Beginn. at Oxford||7h7′ 5″||End at Oxford|
|0.46.48||Beginn. at Borgeo Isles||3.39.14||End at Borgeo Isles.|
|– 51.49||Effect of Parallax &c||+ 17.35||Effect of Parallax &c|
|3.45.22||Diff. of Meridians||3.45.26||Diff. of Meridians|
This result, in terms of longitude measured not from Oxford but from London, as Cook put it on his chart, was equivalent to 3h.50m.4sec. or 57°31′ W. The modern determination is 57°37′ W of Greenwich, or 57°27′ from London—which argues remarkably good observation on Cook's part with his telescopic quadrant. From his figure he deduced for his sailing directions the longitudes of a number of other places on the south coast, adding latitudes from observations made on shore. Obviously he had now acquired the taste for astronomical determination of the longitude. On 11 March he wrote to the Admiralty suggesting that he should be given nothing so humdrum as a tent, but a reflecting telescope for the purpose, representing (to use the secretary's words, which would be much of a transcription of his own) ‘the great Utility it would be to Navigation to take the Longitude of the Head Lands on the Island of Newfoundland, and on the Continent of America’, and the frequent opportunities he had of doing it; and the Lords instructed the Navy Board to furnish him with the article accordingly.1
1 Stephens to Cook, 24 March 1767, Adm 2/727.
The Grenville was ready to sail by 1 April 1767, when a pilot came on board to carry her to Woolwich, but even a pilot for that short passage in unpleasant weather could not prevent an accident: on the 5th ‘at 8 Am a Collier Named the Three Sisters Thomas Bloyd Master of Sunderland in Coming Down the River fell athwart our hause & carried away our Bowsprit Cap & Jibb Boom.’ They hauled alongside the David sloop, got replacements from on shore, had them rigged in a day or two, picked up their ordnance stores at Woolwich and Gravesend, and were off on the 10th. There was a good deal of bad language over this misadventure, it is alleged, and James Cook, the navy master, was prepared to give Thomas Bloyd the merchant master a piece of his mind, when he found that they had been schoolboys together in the Ayton days, and recrimination was dissolved into reminiscence. It is not impossible; but it is absurd that the incident, though typical enough of Thames navigation with its currents and cross-winds, should have been transferred to Cook's next ship in the next year. Cape Race was picked up on 9 May, when we have another characteristic little note in the journal, ‘NB Longitude Made from Scilly to Cape Race 44°10′ Wt. ‘This must have been a dead reckoning longitude.
1 Palliser to Stephens, 7 April 1764, Adm 1/2300; Stephens to Palliser, 7 April, Adm 2/724.
2 Palliser to Stephens, 2 December 1766, and minute by Stephens thereon, Adm 1/2300. The ‘blue coat School’ refers to the Mathematical School or side at Christ's Hospital, founded in 1763 specifically for the training of boys for navigation: Captain Denis or Dennis commanded the Bellona, in which Lane was schoolmaster; ‘apprentice’ I do not understand, unless Lane was to further his knowledge of practical navigation under Dennis's care; who ‘the other young man’ was I do not know.
1 Minutes of Admiralty Board, 5 April 1768, Adm 3/76. This year they cost him £12 16s.
This return to the Thames brushed disaster more closely than the minor collision at the moment of departure. The afternoon of 10 November turned to vile weather—‘a hard Storm of Wind & Excesive heavy Squalls and showers of Rain’—and Cook took in his fore topsail. One may best quote his journal:
at 4 Anchored above the Nore light it bearing ESE in 7 fathm water with the small Bower and Veerd away to a whole Cable, that bringing her up let go Best Bower and Veerd away upon Both to a Cable & at 1/2 upon one & 1/2 Cable upon the other, was then in 6 fath Water, Struck yards & Topmasts. At 6 the Best Bower parted & we taild into shoal water & at 7 She Struck very hard; got a Spring upon the small Bower Cable, & cut the Cable in order to Cast her Head to the Soward & get her under Sail but the Spring Gave way & She cast to the Northward & directly a Shore upon a Shoal called the Knock; got the Topsail Yards & Cross Jack Yards down upon Deck & She lay pretty Easy until the food made when the Gale still continuing she struck very hard & lay down upon her Larboard bilge; hoisted out the Boats & hove every thing overboard from off the Decks & Secured all the Hatchways, at 12 at Night there being no prospect of the gale ceasing took all the People away in the Boats, the Cutter made the Best of her way to Sheerness for Assistance. At 10 Am [on the 11th] the Wear being modt came on Board with proper Assistance from Sheerness Yard in order to get the Vessel off & found she had received Little Damage, began to lighten her by heaving out Shingle Ballast & Pigs of Iron Ballast &c and to lay out Anchors to heave her off.
In the afternoon the weather moderated. ‘At high water’ continues the journal, ‘the Vessel floted, hove her of & made Sail for Sheerness, at 5 anchored between Sheerness & the Nore light, Emp[loyed] Clearing the Decks & putting the Hold to rights.’ Next day the necessary spars and stores were brought off from the yard, the Deal pilot (whose part in all this, if any, is unnoticed) was discharged and a river pilot taken on board, a morning was spent rigging the yards page 94 and bending sails, and the vessel sailed again. On 15 November, ‘At 9 [AM] lashed along side the William & Mary Yatch off Deptford Yard’. That little flurry was over.
1 Stephens to Cook, 12 November 1767 and 13 November (in answer to Cook's letters), Adm 2/727.
3 Palliser to Stephens, 30 November 1767, Adm 1/2300: the letter is mainly about manning the Guernsey, with the final paragraph, ‘Mr Pownel has promis'd to fix a day when Mr Cook may go to the office to take a Sketch of our Estates, from the large plan, and I will apply for a Coppy of the conditions &ca.’
4 Stephens to Cook, 11 April 1768, Adm 2/727; Minutes of Adm. Board, 12 April. It may be thought a little strange, administratively, that Stephens's letter conveying the decision should antedate the decision by one day.
The work: having considered Cook's methods, one may also consider, briefly, the finished products of his skill in his mid- and late thirties; and one must consider not so much the engraved versions of his charts produced by Larken, although these are accurate and beautiful enough, as the manuscript originals. It is not always easy, or even quite possible, to separate from the products of his own hand some of the copies made by his assistants in a style faithfully modelled on his, or drawn immediately from his surveys by, for instance Parker. Of the fifty or so ‘Cook’ charts preserved in various collections, however, we have God's plenty directly attributable to him, whether large coastal charts or ‘plans’ of ports and harbours. The large charts are indeed tremendous productions: the ‘exact trigonometrical survey’ of the west coast is about ten feet long, on an inch to the mile scale, and includes much inland topographical drawing showing the courses of rivers and the forms of lakes which as one might expect, were not taken over into the engraved versions; or the south coast chart, like the former in the Hydrographic Department of the Admiralty, three inches to the mile, stated to be ‘coppy'd from the original survey taken in the year 1764', and about six feet by three; or the other south coast chart in the same department, an inch to the mile, showing ‘the Sea-coast, Bays, Harbours and Islands’ between the ‘Bay of Despair’ and the two St Lawrence harbours, with inset plans of the harbours of Great and Little St Lawrence, Great Jervis, Harbour Breton, Boxey, Blue Pinion, St Jacques, and ‘Bande de La'Rier' (Bande de l'Arier or Belloram)—about eight feet by five, and a thing almost overpowering in its detail and colour as well as size. This was raising British hydrographic surveying to a new power.
One may analyse some of his construction and design, noting first that in his technique he follows tradition. With his training, it could hardly have been otherwise; his particular characteristic is the precision, the comprehensive and consistent exactitude, with which he applies the tradition. He draws his charts on a plane projection, generally oriented to magnetic north; rays drawn from the points of the compass roses cover the sea areas; the variation of the compass page 96 is often stated. Points where latitude had been determined by observation are sometimes marked by a special symbol, and these latitudes are given in the ‘remarks’ written on the chart. Longitudes are given but rarely. (It was only in 1767 that Cook got his reflecting telescope, we remember, and opportunities for observation in that season of storms, and phenomena in the skies that could usefully be observed, cannot have been many. Perhaps, indeed, he was a little naive in his hopes.) There is no graduation for latitude or longitude, except in a few fair copies in which the meridian is graduated in degrees and minutes. Soundings are given from low water mark, in great plenty; in the plans of harbours inset on a chart, or in any other place where Cook thought they were particularly called for (if one may discriminate) they are set thick. In harbour plans leading lines are generally drawn—that is, the alignments of landmarks as a guide to the channel: a matter touched on, of course, in the sailing directions prepared to go with the chart. High water hours at new and full moon are shown by roman numerals; there are notes on the tides. There are separate symbols for rocks above and below water. Many charts include at their edges remarks on navigation and on the fishery. Occasionally the manuscripts have pecked lines representing the angles observed by Cook by lines of sight to landmarks; in some fair copies there are pencilled squares, drawn to true north, as a guide for reduction by draughtsman or engraver. All these things may appear on other charts, though rarely all together, or so richly: the distinctive characteristic of Cook's manuscripts, it has been said, is the care and fullness with which topographical detail on land is drawn, a good deal of brown and green brushwork marking relief and land-cover, in the manner of military mapping. Cliffs appear in semi-profile, an old convention. The influence of Samuel Holland, we see, persists, long after that meeting on the shore of Kennington Cove. We can see some trace of it in the work of Cook's assistants, Parker and Lane.1
1 Most of the preceding paragraph is simply a paraphrase of Skelton, 20. I could not hope to approach Mr Skelton's knowledge of the charts, or his critical skill, and he encouraged me to treat him in this way, rather than make a lengthy quotation.
1 The quotations given by Skelton, 19, from Admiral Bayfield and Captain Boulton are highly illuminating. Admiral Wharton, also a very distinguished hydrographer, added his praise, quoted by Kitson, 80. But perfection is granted to no man, and there were minor dangers hidden from Cook.
2 Minutes of Adm. Board, Adm 3/76.
1 ibid. It was not till 1773 that Lane's allowance was raised to the 10s a day given to Cook.—Admiralty to Navy Board 15 January 1773; NMM/ADM/A/2663.